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Physical Storage
PEM electrolysis 10.11.2015

The illustration shows a close-up view of the test rig including the PEM electrolysis cell.

Reducing the costs with new materials

In the project Ekolyser alliance partners to develop scientific and industrial cost sustainable materials for the polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysis. The aim of the research project is the PEM electrolysis can perform effectively for use in mass markets by 2020.

Project status Project to be completed
Project duration July 2012 until December 2015

In close cooperation with project partners, a new type of membrane will be developed to replace the extruded Nafion membranes (175 µm–200 µm thick) currently used, as they do not exhibit sufficient stability in the planned large-scale systems. The use of platinum group metals, which are generally employed today for catalytic reactions, will also be reduced and ideally completely replaced. Another work package focuses on developing new cost-effective materials and fabrication techniques for metallic bipolar plates in order to considerably reduce the proportion of costs associated with the flow fields and separator plates in relation to the total costs.

  • The illustration shows a close-up view of the test rig including the PEM electrolysis cell. © IEK
  • A researcher at the Institute of Energy and Climate Research (IEK) examines a polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysis cell (PEM electrolysis cell) in a test device. © IEK

Mass market for PEM electrolysis

If water electrolysis technology, and in particular PEM electrolysis, are to be widely and sustainably used on the mass market for the storage of renewable energies after 2020, further steps must be taken to solve outstanding technical issues, such as improving low power densities and inadequate stability, as well as reducing the high costs associated with the technologies currently in use. The EKOLYSER project is one of the 'wind-hydrogen coupling' flagship projects. The Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, Forschungszentrum Jülich, and the industrial partners FuMA-Tech, SolviCore and Gräbener Maschinentechnik are working together to develop cost-effective and sustainable materials for PEM electrolysis for the production of hydrogen from renewable energies with the realistic aim of launching PEM electrolysis technology on the mass market after 2020.

Starting points of the project

This project is still in the initial phase: the targets and test methods have been defined and suitable characterization procedures have been set up, allowing work to begin on material benchmarking.
The collaborative project comprises three subareas, each of which involves specific scientific and technological challenges:

  • Utting costs by reducing catalyst loading and/or replacing noble metal catalysts
  • Membranes with a higher conductivity and mechanical and chemical stability
  • Use of cost-effective and corrosion-resistant bipolar plates and current collectors

Reducing costs woth new materials

The project aims to develop membranes, membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) and a short stack, all of which utilize cost-effective materials and have the potential to reduce the costs of future PEM electrolyzers compared to established electrolysis technologies while maintaining comparable performance characteristics and long-term stability.


Cutting costs by reducing catalyst loading and/or replacing noble metals: An important prerequisite for the deployment of PEM electrolysis on energy storage mass markets is radically reducing the platinum group metals and ideally replacing them with no drop in the performance or long-term stability of the MEAs. In this respect, the noble metal loading will be reduced to 10 % of the current loading in order to prepare the technology for commercialization from 2015 onwards.

Membranes with a higher conductivity and mechanical and chemical stability: An important prerequisite for achieving the project goals is to develop a membrane that increases performance and simultaneously improves robustness and lifetime. In detail, the necessary membrane properties are (1) small surface swelling, (2) small surface resistance, (3) low water crossover, (4) low gas crossover (H2/O2), (5) high long-term stability, and (6) ultimately low costs.

Separator plates for PEM electrolysis: At the moment, the separator plates and current collectors in industrial electrolyzers account for around 48 % of the stack costs and 25 % of the total costs of a PEM electrolysis system. For this reason, this sub-project focuses on cutting costs by identifying suitable materials, cost-effective fabrication processes, and suitable coating techniques. Furthermore, the technical requirements for scaling the areas up to 1000 cm²–2500 cm² will be established to facilitate PEM electrolyzers on a MW scale.

Supported by: The Federal Government on the basis of a decision by the German Bundestag


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  • Dr. Wiebke Lüke
    Forschungszentrum Jülich - Institut für Energie- und Klimaforschung (IEK-3)
Other Addresses


Research funding

The information system EnArgus provides information on research funding, including on this project (German only).